San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Beach Demolitions Continue in Nicoya

TWO more beachfront homes inPlaya Samara, in the northwest provinceof Guanacaste, were demolished last weekas part of an effort to wrest public beachesfrom the hands of private owners, theMunicipality of Nicoya announced.The two houses, vacation homes nearthe mouth of the Mala Noche estuary,were the latest among dozens of buildingsup and down the Pacific coast to beremoved because they are in violation ofthe Maritime Zone (ZMT) Law.Under the law, the first 200 meters ofland from the high tide line belongs to thestate. The first 50 of these meters are consideredpublic terrain and cannot bedeveloped. The remaining 150 meters canbe developed privately, for hotels, restaurantsor homes, through concessionsgranted by municipalities.The Comptroller General’s Officerecently ordered the municipalities ofNicoya, Santa Cruz, also in Guanacaste,and Golfito, in the Southern Zone, to puttheir beaches in compliance with the law(TT, Sept. 23).With the two homes demolished lastweek, the Municipality of Nicoya hasdemolished a total of eight houses, as wellas a plethora of retaining walls andfences, said Fabiola Quesada, head of themunicipality’s Maritime ZoneDepartment. The process has only justbegun. They have complied with about35% of the comptroller’s demands.In Santa Cruz, more than 20 structureshave been demolished, and more than 80remain; Golfito has yet to begin theprocess.Demolition of structures in the publicZMT that have proper constructionpermits – either wrongly awarded orawarded before erosion landed thehomes in the ZMT – is more complicated,Quesada explained. The homeownersmust be indemnified, and in some casesrelocated, before the structures can bedemolished.“But the idea is that, sooner or later,they will all be demolished,” she said.Quesada said that although somehomeowners object to the demolitions andhave appealed the decisions, the processhas been a fair and “peaceful” one.By law, the property owners mustassume the cost of the demolitions; however,in practice, when a municipalitydemolishes a structure, recovering thecosts from the property owner is complicated,Quesada said.The municipality is also expendingfunds to clean up beaches where demolitionshave been made, she added.Beyond demolitions and beach cleaning,the municipality is trying to put thearea’s concessions in order. The amountssome concessionaires pay for their use ofthe land have not been updated in morethan a decade.“For example, some pay just ¢9,000($18.40) a year for their concession.Never in this world would this land be socheap on the market,” Quesada said.Reappraisals of concession land aresupposed to be conducted every fiveyears, but even recently evaluated landwas appraised low, she said.“(The property of) one of the nicesthotels on the beach was appraised at ¢99million ($202,000); that land would neverbe that cheap,” Quesada added.Hotels annually pay 4% of the landvalue for their concession; homes pay3%.

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